DNDF: Possessed Devices

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Friday, April 4, 2014

DNDF: Possessed Devices

I’ve tightened up the bolts, oiled the gears, replaced the belts and made a sacrifice to the random god machine.  Oh great Divine Search Engine I beseech you, once more show me the tenuous connections between haphazardly chosen movies.  SPIN THE WHEEL!

"The Mangler" is a short story by Stephen King, first published in the December 1972 issue of Cavalier magazine, and later collected in King's 1978 collection Night Shift.  "The Mangler" is set in an American town, and the action largely takes place in an industrial Laundromat.  Stephen King has stated that, among the many jobs he took to support his family before he became famous, he worked in an industrial Laundromat.

A police detective investigating a sudden rash of grisly deaths caused by an industrial laundry press machine discovers that, through a series of unfortunate coincidences that lead to certain ingredients (blood, herbs, etc., used in an old spell to summon demons), the machine has become possessed by such a demon.  The story ends after the detective and his friend underestimate the demon's power; and in seeking to exorcise the machine, they instead goad it into ripping free of its moorings and prowling the streets in search of fresh prey.

The Mangler (1995)

  • Genre: Comedy – Horror – Sci-Fi
  • Directed: Tobe Hooper
  • Produced:
    • Kent Adamson 
    • Rita Marie Bartlett 
    • Sudhir Pragjee 
    • Anant Singh 
    • Sanjeev Singh 
    • Helena Spring 
    • Harry Alan Towers
  • Written:
    • Stephen King (Short Story) 
    • Tobe Hooper (Screenplay) 
    • Stephen David Brooks (Screenplay) 
    • Harry Alan Towers (Screenplay)
  • Starring: Robert Englund, Ted Levine, Daniel Matmor, Jeremy Crutchley, Vanessa Pike, Demetre Phillips, Lisa Morris, Vera Blacker, Ashley Hayden, Danny Keogh
  • Music: Barrington Pheloung
  • Cinematography: Amnon Salomon
  • Editing: David Heitner
  • Studio:
    • Allied Film Production 
    • Distant Horizons 
    • Filmex Pty. Ltd. 
    • New Line Cinema
  • Distributed:
    • New Line Cinema  
    • Image Entertainment  
    • Alliance Releasing Home Video  
    • Asso Film
  • Rated:
  • Release Date: 3 March 1995
  • Running Time: 106 minutes
  • Country:
    • United States 
    • Australia 
    • South Africa
  • Language: English

The Mangler, in Gartley's Blue Ribbon Laundry service, is a laundry press owned by Bill Gartley.  The trouble starts when Gartley's niece, Sherry, cuts herself on a lever connected to the machine and splashes blood on the Mangler's tread while trying to avoid being crushed by an old ice box some movers are clumsily carrying past. Sparks and light streams occur when both the blood and the ice box come into close contact with the Mangler. Later, an elderly worker, struggling to open a bottle of antacids, spills them on the moving tread of the Mangler. When she attempts to collect them, the safety shield inexplicably lifts up and traps her hand inside, followed by her entire body getting pulled into the machine.

Police officer John Hunton, with the help of his brother-in-law Mark, investigates the incident and the ones that soon follow.  As the plot progresses, Mark tries to convince Hunton that the machine may be possessed, and the only way to stop the deaths is to exorcize the machine to dispel whatever demon is inhabiting it.

With the help of Sherry, the two men attempt to exorcise the demon before it strikes again by reciting a prayer and administering holy water.  The machine gives one last groan and shuts down.  As the three sigh with relief, Hunton takes some antacids, admitting to Mark that they belonged to Frawley.  Mark suddenly realizes that the key ingredient in the antacids is deadly nightshade, also called "the Hand of Glory" as outlined in his occult book. Since the machine was accidentally fed the same antacids, Mark realizes that not only was the exorcism rendered useless, as the demon is still alive, it is now stronger than ever.  The machine bursts to life and now appears to have a mind of its own, shedding off pieces of metal and rising up in the manner of a wild beast.  The three run through the warehouse as they are chased by the now-mobile Mangler.

The Mangler kills Mark while John and Sherry descend a flight of stairs.  In their hurry to escape, they fall through a large manhole into the sewer below, the machine struggling to get to them.  Suddenly, something falls from the machine into the water, and a mechanical wail ensues.  The machine draws back and becomes still.

The Mangler

The Lift (1983)

  • Original Title: De lift
  • Genre: Fantasy – Horror – Sci-Fi
  • Directed: Dick Maas
  • Produced: Matthijs van Heijningen
  • Written: Dick Maas
  • Starring: Huub Stapel, Willeke van Ammelrooy, Josine van Dalsum, Liz Snoyink, Wiske Sterringa, Huib Broos, Pieter Lutz, Johan Hobo, Dick Scheffer, Matthias Maat, Ger van Groningen, Jan Anne Drenth
  • Music: Dick Maas
  • Cinematography: Marc Felperlaan
  • Editing: Hans van Dongen
  • Studio:
    • First Floor Features 
    • Sigma Film Productions
  • Distributed:
    • Arcade Pictures  
    • Tuschinski Film Distribution  
    • Warner-Columbia Film  
    • Island Alive  
    • Bridge Entertainment Group  
    • Dice DVD  
    • Image Entertainment  
    • Media Home Entertainment
  • Rated:
  • Release Date:
    • 11 May 1983 (Netherlands) 
    • 4 July 1985 (USA)
  • Running Time: 95 minutes
  • Country: Netherlands
  • Language: Dutch

De Lift (The Elevator) is a 1983 film by Dutch director Dick Maas about a killer elevator that traps some party-goers and decapitates a security guard.  In 2001, an American remake, Down, was made and was also directed by Dick Maas.

In a building in Amsterdam, an elevator inexplicably begins to function alone.  The victims of this anomaly are, in the course of the film, an elderly blind man (who falls down the elevator shaft), a night watchman of the building itself (who gets decapitated by the elevator doors), and a janitor (who's snared in the elevator shaft and whose body drops from ceiling hole of the cabin).  At the beginning of the film, 2 pairs get trapped and almost suffocate in the elevator, which was inexplicably stopped after a power failure caused by lightning but the subsequent power restore didn't resume the elevator ride.  A technician responsible for maintaining the elevator (Felix), begins to examine the electrical system in an attempt to find any anomalies.  During the course of several inspections, he meets a journalist, "Mieke De Boer", who is a journalist for The Nieuwe Revu, a local magazine. Felix says "he often find this tabloid in his friends Cat litter."

Many inspections don't reveal any apparent malfunctions in the electrical system, but Felix seems to take to heart the continuing freaky malfunctions of the elevator(s).  He even doesn't take pleasure anymore in the occasional bowling with his wife Saskia and their mutual friends.  Felix's continuing obsession causes a befriended wife to warn his own wife, assuming that there is another woman in the middle ... Meanwhile, Felix continues his investigation, examining the manuals with wiring diagrams.  When Felix pays yet another visit to the building with the faulty elevator, he sees a van parked outside the entrance: the company is "Rising Sun", a manufacturer of microprocessors for automation.  This company is also revealed as a secret supplier of experimental microprocessors to Felix's elevator company.  With the help of Mieke, Felix collects the archives of many newspaper articles about the company, and one day they decide to meet up with the head of this company.

The couple (Felix and Mieke, the female journalist who disguises herself as a co worker) tries to get information on the manufacturing process of the microprocessors and their possible faulty behavior.  The director of the company gets nervous and thus answers abrupt and makes very little time for the interview.

Unfortunately, the escapade soon reaches the ears of Felix's wife, who gets angry just as they are at the table for dinner, along with their son and daughter.  The phone rings, Mieke wants to shed some light on the elevator problem and invites Felix to visit a former university teacher of hers, who is specialized in electronics.  The teacher talks about microprocessors' sensitivity to external factors, such as electric fields and magnetic fields, radioactivity etc., which undermine then the proper functionality.  Felix is perplexed, even when the teacher tells about a computer built years ago, had suddenly begun to self-program, and getting totally out of control.

The next morning, Felix was summoned by his boss at the elevator factory, who was ragingly mad for the little private visit they gave to the "Rising Sun" building, The factory CEA questions the way Felix and his journalist sidekick conducted the interview with the Rising Sun CEO.  As a punishment, Felix gets suspended.  Later that day when night falls, The owners of Deta Liften and Rising Sun have a secret meeting in a car near the building with the problematic elevator.  The conversation has a gritty undertone.  Both businessman get nervous as their secret conspiracy of building an elevator controller out of organic material is getting out of hand and killing people.

Left behind by his wife and children who in the main time left home, Felix feels that he doesn't have anything left to do but solve the elevator conspiracy once and for all and see the experiment for himself.  He creeps into the building at night time.  The lift reveals itself to have a psychopathic mind as it operates nicely while trying to scare him off by crushing a chair that he wants to use to access the shaft.  Felix then executes plan B and goes to the top floor with the elevator machinery.  The metal enclosure that's supposed to contain the microprocessor is empty, making it clear to the repairman that something is fishy.

Felix returns downstairs, then enters an elevator shaft, climbing on the carriage to start inspecting the inner shaft for the replacement chip.  After having plugged in and turned on the flashlight, Felix scans the entire shaft by emergency controls on the elevator roof.  The microprocessor senses it and stops him dead in his tracks, so he has to resort to alpine climbing the wires to get to the faint pulsating box he sees above.  Felix uncovers the cover plate and the microchip is revealed as a viscous sticky goo crawling around some silicon wafer.  Making the sound of a heartbeat, Felix gets intimidated by this scenery and starts attacking the gooey abomination with his screwdriver.

As a reaction to this, the microprocessor starts the elevator in high speed and Felix is getting attacked by its counterweight.  This battle goes on for a while.  Felix "harms" the organic microcomputer a few times more and each time the counterweight hits him faster when eventually he falls and has to ledge hang himself to the nearest elevator doors.  As the elevator cabin is hovering on the floor right above him Felix furiously tries to open the doors from the floor below and tries to get out but his hands slip on the glossy floor.

Meanwhile though: due to the continuous high-speed attacks of the elevator, the cables are rapidly being fatigued and start to break one by one.  Felix now seems doomed, but as the final cable breaks and the cabin comes down threatening to totally dismember Felix in half Mieke grabs him and pulls him out, just in the nick of time, sarcastically telling him "I can't ever leave you alone can I?"

The film ends with an unexpected twist: Suddenly the Rising Sun CEO arrives at the scene and realizes that he failed at his experiment.  He pulls out a gun and fires 4 shots into the biocomputer, to kill it off once and for all.  In its last gust of madness the computer manipulates the cable spindle in such a way that one of the broken cables come out of the shaft, onto the floor grabbing the director like a lasso and drags him inside the shaft so he would get hanged. the microprocessor has exterminated his own builder!

In the aftermath, Felix and Mieke are both shaken and decide to take the stairs.  As they walk downstairs, the credits roll.

De Lift

Theodore Sturgeon (February 26, 1918 – May 8, 1985) was an American science fiction and horror writer and critic.  The Internet Speculative Fiction Database credits him with about 400 reviews and more than 200 stories.

Sturgeon's most famous work may be the science fiction More Than Human (1953), an expansion of "Baby Is Three" (1952).  More Than Human won the 1954 International Fantasy Award (for SF and fantasy) as the year's best novel and the Science Fiction Writers of America ranked "Baby is Three" number five among the "Greatest Science Fiction Novellas of All Time" to 1964. (Ranked by votes for all of their pre-1965 novellas, Sturgeon was second among authors behind Robert Heinlein.)

The Science Fiction and Fantasy Hall of Fame inducted Sturgeon in 2000, its fifth class of two deceased and two living writers.  But more importantly, he is the author of the novella that is the source of the greatest of machine gone wild movies ever.  Students of the macabre, Damen und Herren, Sentient beings one and all, I present Killdozer!


Killdozer (1974)

  • Genre: Horror – Sci-Fi
  • Directed: Jerry London
  • Produced: Herbert F. Solow
  • Written:
    • Theodore Sturgeon 
    • Ed MacKillop 
    • Herbert F. Solow
  • Starring: Clint Walker, Carl Betz, Neville Brand, James Wainwright, Robert Urich, James A. Watson Jr.
  • Music: Gil Melle
  • Cinematography: Terry K. Meade
  • Editing:
    • Bud Hoffman 
    • Fabien D. Tordjmann
  • Studio: Universal TV
  • Distributed:
    • American Broadcasting Company  
    • Universal Studios Home Entertainment
  • Rated: NR
  • Release Date: 2 February 19
  • Running Time: 74 minutes
  • Country: United States
  • Language: English

Killdozer! is a 1974 made for TV science-fiction/horror movie, adapted from a 1944 novella by Theodore Sturgeon.  A comic-book adaptation appeared the same year, in Marvel Comics Worlds Unknown #6 (April 1974).

An ancient meteorite crashes onto the Earth's surface.  Six construction workers later begin work building an airstrip at the site, on an island off the coast of Africa.

Foreman Kelly and bulldozer driver Mack uncover the meteorite, which emits a strange sound.  When the bulldozer (a Caterpillar D9) is used to try to shift the meteorite, it emits a blue light and seems to possess the bulldozer. Mack, standing nearby as this occurs, falls ill and then dies.  Chub, the team's mechanic, cannot find anything wrong with the bulldozer, but can hear the odd sound from the blade.  Kelly orders that the bulldozer not be used.

Beltran ignores the prohibition and starts the bulldozer, bringing it to malevolent life.  It destroys the camp's only two-way radio and begins a rampage, killing the workers one by one.  It seems to run indefinitely in spite of a limited fuel capacity.  The machine has some rudimentary intelligence and guile, and hunts down the men.

The crew is soon reduced to just Kelly and Dennis.  Running out of options they jokingly convict the bulldozer of murder and devise methods of 'executing' it.  Too heavy to hang, too big for the gas chamber... until they realize it might be electrocuted.  They lure it to a trap consisting of steel Marsden Matting (used for constructing temporary runways during World War II) connected to a generator.

As the bulldozer is electrified, the alien entity emerges as an aura around the machine, then finally fades.  The men shut down the power and check the blade: no sound.  Kelly realizes his story will not be believed as he is a recovering alcoholic - and this job was his last chance to redeem himself.

The film is referenced many times in Mystery Science Theater 3000 throughout the series.  It was referenced once more in a riff on the educational short "Join Hands, Let's Go!" by Rifftrax (composed of MST3K alumni).


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